Achievement gap wide for American Indian students
By Bob Mercer
PIERRE — Past efforts haven’t closed gaps between American Indian students and non-Indian students in reading and mathematics at fourth and eighth grades in South Dakota, state Education Secretary Melody Schopp told the Legislature’s long-range planning committee Monday.
Students who can’t read in fourth grade and aren’t proficient in math in eighth grade have difficulty completing high school or succeeding as adults. There was a 42 percent difference in graduation rates in 2012, she said.
The state Department of Education’s goal is that every student be able to graduate from high school ready for a career or for post-secondary education. Schopp said that drives all of the work her department is doing.
“We really have this moral imperative. Every kid in South Dakota deserves that,” she told the legislators.
Two of the stepping stones are reading proficiency in fourth grade and math proficiency in eighth grade.
She said national testing shows the same type of gap in reading for American Indian students at fourth grade, but South Dakota is seeing it widen at eighth grade, contrary to the national trend.
For the fourth-grade reading results from the 2012-2013 achievement tests, American Indian students came in at 37 proficient and 9 percent advanced. White students were 44 percent proficient and 38 percent advanced.
For eighth grade reading, American Indian students were 37 percent proficient and 7 percent advanced. White students were 53 percent proficient and 26 percent advanced.
In eighth grade math, American Indian students were 35 percent proficient and 4 percent advanced. White students were 60 percent proficient and 22 percent advanced.
“We need to be laser focused to see what is working and what isn’t working,” Schopp said.
One school district where the gaps are getting smaller is Timber Lake. LuAnn Lindskov, who lives at Isabel, was selected last week as South Dakota teacher of the year for 2014. She is a math and science teacher at Timber Lake. Her work links students with physicists and students around the world in collection of cosmic radiation data.
“We know the teachers can make all of the difference,” Schopp said. “We see there are bright spots like that … Where we see it’s working, we have to learn.”